Evaluations Continue In Week-Two Of Camp

As 2009 spring camp winds through this second week it appears the new Mississippi State staff did its pre-practice homework well. Not just for the efficiency and consistency noted over the first four days of drills, but for the lack of major moves made in the early going. The 22 Bulldogs who were lined up at their respective slots on day-one are still there as of now.

This certainly does not mean that Coach Dan Mullen has settled on any sort of ‘starting' team already. After all, with only four working dates done it is too soon to expect wholesale shifts. Once the Mississippi State staff has more practice evidence to evaluate the changes, whether promotions and demotions or outright moves, the changes will likely come. Yet it still says much about what the position coaches and coordinators were able to get done between Signing Day and first practice in picking and placing people to practice with that so few alterations have been necessary. So far.

It says just as much and maybe more about the pre-practice preparations that these initial four practices have gone so smoothly for all involved. The Bulldogs have not put in less than three hours—and the first day closer to 3:30—of work each time out; and almost every aspect of the game has been covered on most of those days, including kickoff and returns beginning yesterday. Topping that off, Mullen has already utilized two of the NCAA's allowed full-pads and contact dates for a spring session, probably to accelerate the overall evaluation process for a staff with just two holdovers from the previous regime.

And there hasn't been a day yet that Mullen left the field unhappy about the quantity and quality of work done. Certainly there has been much the Bulldogs could have done better even under the new-staff circumstances. Most notably the passing game has lagged initially based on both erratic throwing by quarterbacks—something Mullen made pointed comments about Tuesday—and a lack of healthy scholarship wide receivers. Placekicking hasn't been very reliable at first either, at least not on anything longer than 30 yards.

But most other aspects of this revamped team have shown promise, and some even show signs of being real SEC caliber. The ground game in particular has drawn positive comments from both coach and observers. Defensive pursuit has been very good whether in partial- or full-team work, which ought to be expected since that side of the ball has the most veteran personnel and returning starters. And just the general shape and strength of the entire spring roster looks to have improved a few degrees over the last three months. Though, Mullen had some cutting comments Saturday when a few players—WR Terrance Davis and S T.J. Patterson for two examples—were hobbled by minor muscle pulls that indicated incomplete personal preparations for practices.

But these players pay a heavy price. Anyone who can't go full-speed in drills but is not actually in rehab must spend the rest of that practice working out on the adjoining vacant field. It only take a few rounds of up-downs and crab-crawls for them to get the message that even full-hitting practice is a much less painful way to spend their day. Even those in various stages of rehab work hard and non-stop while their teammates drill. Scholarship players who were limited as of Tuesday were HB Robert Elliot and WR Brandon McRae—both coming off serious fall injuries and surgeries—and KS Eric Richards with his ongoing hip issues. Elliot and McRae have been able to participate in non-hitting drills and both move very well considering the severity of their game injuries in '08.

Veteran OT Mark Melichar missed the first two days with mono-like symptoms. He has been back for both pads days, and at a new position as he is working as a guard now; on both sides of center. Tuesday even saw the return of TE Marcus Green to team drills. He had been limited with the nagging pelvic muscle problem that required winter follow-up work and a January check by a Pittsburgh specialist. This was his first real practicing of '09, and while Green did not block in full-tackle ground work he lined up at both tight end and in the slot in passing drills. Lack of bodies at wideout even had him in that group much of the day.

Two Dogs suffered practice injuries Tuesday as HB Christian Ducre banged up his right shoulder in two-minute offense and SLB Mike Hunt hurt his right ankle in 8-on-7 ground game drills. Their status for Friday is unknown.

The only real ‘move' during camp so far has been a spring freshman, Cameron Lawrence, going over from quarterback to wideout Tuesday. The true rookie spent the first three days as the #3 passer; now he has a chance to catch them, though Lawrence is so versatile he will be given chances to play many roles including punt rush and perhaps return.

Starting Thursday, the Bulldogs will have their first consecutive practice days; three of them in fact as they are scheduled to work at 3:30 tomorrow and Friday, then 10:00am Saturday. All will be on the practice fields. Thursday is another pads day, as is Saturday. Friday's drills will likely be shortened a bit to conclude before the 6:30 baseball game when Mississippi State opens a series with Auburn.

And perhaps by the weekend some changes and adjustments will be made to how the Bulldogs are lining up. For today, however, the unofficial but observed ‘depth chart' from Tuesday follows:

Offensive Right Tackle: Addison Lawrence, Phillip Freeman, Dakota Merritt

Right Guard: Quentin Saulsberry, Craig Jenkins, Mark Melichar

Center: J. C. Brignone, D.J. Looney, Sam Watts

Left Guard: Tobias Smith, Mark Melichar, Templeton Hardy, John McMillan

Left Tackle: Derek Sherrod, Chris Spencer, Michael Bufkin

Tight Ends: Kendrick Cook, Nelson Hurst, Brandon Henderson, Austin Wilbanks, Marcus Green, Thomas Webb

Quarterbacks: Tyson Lee, Chris Relf, Cameron Lawrence, Todd Kilpatrick, Riley Saunders

Halfbacks: Christian Ducre, Arnil Stallworth, Anthony Dixon, Robert Elliot(L)

Fullbacks: Sylvester Hemphill, Patrick Hanrahan, Ryan Lester, Allen Tolbert

Receivers (both SEs and FLs): Tay Bowser, Leon Berry, O'Neal Wilder, Terrence Davis, Charles Bailey, Cameron Lawrence, Marcus Green, Delmon Robinson(L), Brandon McRae(L)

Defensive Left End: Brandon Cooper, Trevor Stigers, Nick Bell

Left Tackle: Pernell McPhee, LaMarcus Williams, Rodney Prince

Right Tackle: Charles Burns, Kyle Love, Reggie Odom, Joshua Jackson

Right End: Sean Ferguson, Shane McCardell, Devin Jones, Renaldo Buck

Middle Linebacker: Jamar Chaney, Bo Walters, Jamie Jones

Strongside Linebacker: K.J. Wright, Mike Hunt, Mark Lynn

Weakside Linebacker: Chris White, Karlin Brown, Terrell Johnson, Joseph Gonzales

Safety: Zach Smith, Emmanuel Gatling, Andrew Shannon, ToJo Patterson

Safety: Charles Mitchell, Wade Bonner, Christ Cameron, Robert Gurley

Nickel Safety: Marcus Washington, Wade Bonner

Right Cornerback: *Marcus Washington, Corey Broomfield, Marvin Bure

Left Cornerback: Damein Anderson, Louis Watson, Jarvis Williams

Kickoffs: Sean Brauchle, Derek DePasquale, William Berg

Kickoff Return: Wade Bonner, Leon Berry; Anthony Dixon, Marvin Bure; O'Neal Wilder

Placekicks: Sean Brauchle, Derek DePasquale

Punter: Heath Hutchins

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